My Civil War
Before, During and After
our full company on the day we were sworn in at St. Louis in Oct., 1861. Also, I added 1 horse and all equipment to each man. I then took stock of everything enumerated that was on hand in the company. I then accounted for all that was missing by loss in a battle here, a skirmish there, by wear out and now useless, by loss in capture and unavoidable loss in retreat from the enemy. The Capt. or 1st Lieut. of the company signed an affidavit for each and every loss, and the reason of or for it. I made out affidavits to cover all to date, and there were many, you may well think. The order also stated that until the statements were sent to the Ordinance Dept. at Washington, and if, when received, the were found inaccurate or wrong, the Captain or 1st Lieutenant's pay would be stopped until a satisfactory & correct accounting was received. I took the affidavits and all papers to Lieut. Moreing and explained it all to him, telling him it was all I could see to do. He was anxious & scared, as we now had several months pay due us. He said he would sign any or everything I wanted, did not even read them. So, he signed and swore to all I had made out, and I sent them to Washington. I will here anticipate the anxious time spent by all the Captains until the next pay, which came in the October following. While we were at camp in Maysville, Ala., Capt. (he was then) Moreing was the only Captain in the regiment that drew any pay that time; our report was accepted as correct. He was elated, but forgot to give me the hundred dollars he promised me if our report was correct. He said he was so in debt, that it would take a good share of it to square up. He said he would pay me, but never did. While stationed at Ft. Donelson one day, our battalion was ordered on a scout to Waverly, Tennessee. About 35 miles from camp, it was a nice little town in a valley and 8 miles from the Tennessee River. We stayed there a few hours, then, hearing that we were in a hornets nest likely to be caught and cut off from camp by a larger force than we were, it was thought best to get out. The place was a great rendezvous for guerrillas as it was so situated in amongst the mountains, seldom visited by our troops and easy to defend with a small force. We were sent there in hope of being able to catch some of Woodward's men that we heard were there, and to break up and scatter them. They were a great annoyance to our troops, especially to pickets or small foraging parties, by suddenly storming our men or pickets from some ambush, capturing and killing them before our boys could get over their surprise. But we saw that they were gathering around us from
a distance, so we got out as soon as we could. By that time it was getting towards evening. Our company was the rear guard. We started on a brisk pace, but soon we heard them coming after us. We increased our pace to a gallop and soon distanced them. In coming out, we noticed a deep cut in the road 8 to 10 foot wide; our horses saw it and jumped over it easily. But when we came to it coming back, it was dark and, of course, my horse saw it, but I did not and so was not prepared for it. When my horse suddenly jumped over it, it threw me high up in the saddle. When I came down so hard in the saddle, the poor little horse sank down on the ground and could not rise up again for all I could do. I then realized that his back was broken. There I was: alone in the dark, the command having all gone, and the Rebs not far behind. I had to take to the woods and try to make the best way I could back to our camp, which I reached early the next morning. Or rather our pickets, with whom I stayed until they were relieved in a few hours. It was a lucky escape, for these guerrillas were of that class that showed little mercy to any of our boys they captured, and more often hung them to the first good tree they came to rather than hold them as prisoners. We retaliated in the same style when we caught any that we knew belonged to that crowd. They were murderers & bandits.
About this time, the Spencer carbine was issued to the regiment, the best in cavalry arms up to this time. It was a stock loading gun, a 7 shooter, easy to fire on horseback and could be loaded or charged while in motion, even on a gallop after a little practice. We now, for the first time, felt properly armed and were more willing to face the foe. A splendid, new & large Colt navy revolver was given to us the same time. Now we felt like real soldiers, able and willing to meet the Rebs at any time. About the middle of May, we were ordered to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, at the front to join the army under Rosecrans. We marched overland and arrived there in a week or ten days and went into the camp on the outskirts of the town. Here we were given the shelter, or as we called them, dog tent. They consisted of 3 or 4 yards of heavy sheeting that were to be buttoned together when ready to set up. They were in 2 pieces, with loops on each piece to drive pegs through to fasten to the ground. We could just crawl into them on hands and knees and, if not over 6 foot tall, manage to sit in an upright position; and just long enough to lay down to sleep. They were a protection to us in any ordinary rain and storm. We strapped them on top of our blankets behind us
on the saddle. We soon, however, discarded them as too much trouble for the little comfort & protection they gave. Here our Capt. Wheeler received his discharge, having sent in his resignation a short time before we left Ft. Donelson. Just why he sent in his resignation was to us a mystery; we saw no reason for it. No doubt he was frightened into it for some misdemeanor or other that Lieut. Moreing told him made him liable to a Court Martial. We always thought it was one of Moreing's sharp tricks, aided in some way by Regimental Headquarters, for he was not at all popular there, and also Moreing's ambition to be Captain of the company, which he never should have been. This created another vacancy in the company. Lieutenant Guler became 1st Lieutenant, L. H. Carley to 1st Sgt. (should now have been made 2nd Lieutenant) and I should have been made 1st or Orderly Sgt. from QM Sergeant. Instead, Carley & me were stepped over and kept down by promoting over us a man that had never done a days' duty in the company, never fired a gun or revolver against a Rebel, or saw one unless he was a prisoner. Oscar Langworthy was his name. He was from a wealthy and, at that time, an influential family, and a distant relation to Capt. Moreing. He was, from the very first, detailed as clerk and secretary to Col. Lowe, and to lots of the boys in the company he was never known, as he rarely ever showed his face to us. After his promotion he was, of course, compelled to be with the company, and he became the laughing stock of it and the butt of every joke. I never saw him give a command, he never tried to. He was completely ignorant of anything and did not know how to command, right & left wheel or give the simplest command. Such was the man that was promoted over us. It was rank favoritism, but we had to submit to it, but it was rank injustice to Carley & me.
We remained in camp here, drilling everyday up to the 12th or 13th, when orders came to prepare to march with three days rations. This we knew meant business, for Bragg, with his army, was in our front. His outpost almost in sight, recruited to its full quota since the Battle of Stones River last January, and they were ready and anxious to meet us. Our boys had made two large bake ovens (we had 2 regular bakers by trade in the company), and we (or they) could bake into bread 2 barrels of flour at a time. They knew their business and made fine bread. So, as soon as we knew we had to break camp the next morning, the 2 bakers were set to work.
As plenty of flour had been issued to us, they set to work and baked until reveille blew to get the company up and prepare to move. Just how much they baked, I never knew. But I issued, as I remember now, 2 large loaves to each man. I did not have to give any to the officers, and out of pure spite, I did not give them a loaf. I presume the bakers fixed themselves and their friends up good and plenty, but as they had worked hard all night, I just winked at it. This same night the General's Quartermaster General, Col. J. W. Taylor of Dubuque, resplendent in his full uniform, brass buttons and all, paid us a visit. Most of the Dubuque boys knew him. He shook hands with all and wished us all good luck. We never saw him after that.
The next day we moved out. It began to rain, and it just poured down for 24 hours, converting the roads into mud, mire and small lakes and streams. The army had to come to a standstill a few miles out, the trains were all stalled in the rear, so rations ran out and none could come up that day. It was funny to see the officers come around the boys offering one dollar for a hardtack. But the boys had little themselves, so hung on to what they had. So Mr., Col., Major, Captains & the rest had to go hungry as the men often had to. They received little sympathy from us. The following night it cleared up, the wagons were able to reach us, rations were issued and the army moved on. On this day, June 15th and hot as could be, we came up to the Rebs pickets and outpost. Skirmishing began at once. Our command, the cavalry under Gen. Stanley, advanced on the Shelbyville Pike. It was now dry and dusty and very warm. A Michigan regiment had the advance that day and had been skirmishing with the Rebels for several hours. Sometime in the afternoon our regiment was ordered out to relieve them. We started out on a trot down the road. We were soon saluted by their artillery (posted in the middle of the Pike) and their infantry, in a field on our left (a little nearer to us), peppered into us pretty lively. Their artillery (2 pounders) were about a mile away and directly in our front, now opened on us but did us no harm. Our company had the advance. I was riding beside and about the center of the company, when I heard an exclamation in back of me which was: "My God, I am hit!", or something like it. I turned around and saw Geo. W. Healey with his hands covering his face and the blood seeping through his fingers and running down pretty lively. I told him to drop out and go back to the camp and see the doctor, which he did at once. We rode on a little farther and then turned
to the right, into a clearing, or, as it proved to be, the backyard of a log house. We soon found the Rebs right in front of us on the other side of the house, when we began playing peek-a-boo: shooting at each other whenever a head showed itself around the corners. Jacob Schreiner and myself turned our attention to the Rebels that were firing into us from their position on the left, in a meadow across the Turnpike 3 or 4 hundred yards away. We kneeled down by a rail fence and returned their compliment as fast as we could fire our carbines. They soon espied us, and then some of them paid particular attention to us at once, and it got pretty hot in that corner. The splinters from the rails became more dangerous than the bullets. One bullet severed the bridle of Jake's horse that he held on his arm (we held on to our horses while we fighting them). We drew back a few yards and, standing up holding the bridles in the crook of our elbows, kept up the firing. While standing there, I all at once heard Jake cursing and swearing. Turning to him, I saw the blood running down his face and saw a small pebble embedded in his cheek. A bullet had struck the pebble at his feet with such force that it flew up into his face and stuck there. We then resumed our sport until, very soon after, we were ordered to mount and fall back. Another regiment was coming to relieve us as we had been on the firing line about 3 hours. The Rebs fell back some distance and their infantry fire had stopped. Their artillery, though farther back, kept up a slow fire. They had evidently run out of shot and shell and so pelted us with railroad iron, which we could see coming, tumbling end over end, and easily dodge. Brother Dave was the unlucky one again. He had hardly mounted and gotten started back when one of those pieces of railroad iron struck his horse and took off his forelegs slick and clean. I wanted him to mount on the back of my horse but, as it was only one mile back to the command, he took to the woods and soon joined us. There were no killed and but few wounded (and none seriously) in our regiment in that skirmish. I went to the hospital tent at once to see Healey. He was all right, but had his head shaved and bandaged up. He had been hit by a ball on the very top of his head and just shaved off the skin from his scalp. It was a close call. Had the ball struck him 1/8 of an inch lower down, it would have crashed into and through his brain and his fighting days would have been over. It did not disable him, he was at his post and ready for duty right away. Bragg with his army retreated towards Shelbyville. Our regiment saw
no further fighting in that campaign, but were constantly in the saddle guarding the rear and flanks of the army until it reached Chattanooga on the Tennessee River early in September.
The 3 day Battle of Chickamauga was fought on the 18th, 19th and 20th of September. It was one of the bloodiest of the entire war, the worst so far in the west, and the only defeat of any consequence the Western Army had so far met with, and it was a bad one. And only for the single bravery of Gen. Geo. H. Thomas, who covered the rear and kept Bragg's entire army at bay until they reached Chattanooga, Rosecrans' entire army would have been killed and captured, and the states of Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky would have been once more in the hands of the Rebels. What would then have been the result is too fearful to even think of. But God be thanked, He had raised up two (now) immortal heroes to fit the time and occasion: Abraham Lincoln and General Grant. They proudly met and hurled the exulting foe back, never again to menace these fair but blood stained states with their ragged hordes. We, or rather the cavalry, were stationed at Crawfish Springs, on the left flank of the army, 20 miles from Chattanooga. The fighting was as severe there as any part of the field, and the cavalry fully sustained its reputation as fighters, as they were the last to leave the field. We, our regiment, had but little part in that 3 day battle, and hardly within the sound of its guns. We were on the very extreme left, on guard there to prevent the Rebels from getting in the rear of our army. If they had, hardly a man would have escaped. It was an important trust to hold, if not glorious, but we were ordered there and, as such, we had to obey. It was a bitter disappointment to us, for no true soldier likes to be out of danger guarding the rear when his comrades a few miles away are fighting for their lives and the life of the nation. But some troops had to do it, and it fell to our lot, to our great regret. When our troops were finally safe behind the fortifications of Chattanooga, we (our reg.) fell farther back to McMinnville, Tennessee.
We remained there a week or two, and then moved to Maysville, Alabama. It was near the Cumberland Mountains, in the rear of the army that was now cooped up and nearly starving & freezing. Bragg had promptly moved up after the battle and occupied Mission Ridge and Lookout Mountain, almost hemming them in. Only a narrow road, very difficult for teams or troops was left them; and through and over this dangerous road
did Grant finally reach them. Afterwards, Gen. Hooker with 2 corps under Gens. Howard and Slocum also reached them. We escaped that fate and trying time by being so far on the left and retiring to McMinnville. We remained at Maysville a few weeks and we were there paid, the first pay we had since leaving Ft Donelson. This was the time our Capt. Moreing was the only Capt. in the regiment that got his pay for the only correct ordinance report sent in (elsewhere in this paper spoken of). I did not get my hundred dollars promised me. While here, Gen. Sherman's Army from Vicksburg passed by to reinforce Gen. Grant. We saw lots of the boys we knew amongst them. From here, sometime in October, we were ordered to join Gen. Crook who was after the Rebel Gen. Joe Wheeler. He had gotten through our lines, somehow, and into the rear of our army with quite a large cavalry force and several batteries of artillery. He was creating quite a panic by tearing up our railroads, destroying bridges, capturing our wagons loaded with supplies for the army at Chattanooga and taking as prisoners the small bodies of our men that were guarding them. It was getting serious for the boys at the front. We got after him and caught up with his rear guard at Wartrace, Tennessee. We, our company, had quite a severe skirmish with them here, but got them on the run in a couple of hours. Here is where our Major Brackett and our Capt. Moreing showed their cowardice. As soon as firing began they each took to a tree and, from that safe retreat, gave out their commands, such as "Give them hell, boys!" and such like. We yelled and hooted and tried to shame them out, but they stuck to their trees until the Rebs had gone. Brave boys were they: gone at their country's call one day to shirk their duty and draw their pay. We followed them to & through the town of Shelbyville, Tennessee.
Here I must digress, and relate an incident that happened to us while we were chasing the Rebs through Shelbyville on the campaign under Rosecrans in June. Miss Pauline Cashman, at the time a noted actress, had been playing an engagement in Louisville that spring. She had been asked by the Gen. to act as a spy for him in the Rebel Army (for instructions and reason given to her see any reliable war history). She consented, and entered the Rebel lines as a persecuted woman driven out of the Union lines for having sympathized with the south, talking secession too much, giving aid to Rebel soldiers &c. She was received with open arms and feted and toasted for many days. She visited the forts and camps and gained valuable
information. She could have sent it through their lines but, at the last for some reason or another, Bragg set a watch on her. He got suspicious through some of her actions; success had made her bold & careless. A private order for her arrest was made by Bragg, the news of which (through some officer on Bragg's staff whom she had infatuated) reached her in time to flee. She secured a swift horse and got nearly into our lines when she was overtaken. She was next condemned to be hung as a spy, but before she could be executed she was taken sick with typhoid fever. She prolonged her sickness until Bragg and his army had to hustle out of town by our rapid approach. Bragg could not stop to get her out and did not want the name of hanging a sick woman, so he had to leave her. When we entered the town (and we did it on the gallop), we passed her house. She waved her handkerchief frantically at us from the window and we saluted, but at the time did not know her. She was sent back in an ambulance and every attention and honor possible was given her. When she reached the north she was lionized and given the glad hand by everybody. It is sad to have to relate that all this so turned her head that she took to drink and fast living and, in a few years, reached the lowest depth. She died an outcast and was buried as a pauper.
At Farmington, Tennessee, Wilder's Brigade of Indiana's troops (the advance) caught up with them, but they had hidden in thick brush right near the roadside so that our boys could not see them. When our boys came up, they fired volley after volley into them at such close range. They were taken so completely by surprise and off their guard that our boys were a little disorganized and stunned. But, they were veterans of the best type: they never retreated a foot, but quickly railed. And how they did pour it into them now flying Johnnies was a caution! And how they did chase them miles & miles can only be realized by the soldiers that have gone through a similar experience, as we had more than once. Our loss in killed and wounded I never heard of, but it was heavy for so small a force in so short a time. The Rebs loss was considerable, too. We saw quite a number of their dead along the road, and their wounded they took along or were hidden in friendly houses nearby. We followed them for several days when, on the 19th of October, they finally made a stand. A brigade of 2 or 3 regiments were in the valley of the Sugar Creek in Alabama. As we came down the hill into the valley (about one mile wide), we found Gen. Crook, his staff and battle flag carried by Corporal Horton Dickinson of our company awaiting
us right at the foot. He called us to a halt for the regiment to get up. Our company had the advance that day. Then he (the Gen.) pointed to the Rebels in battle line across the valley at the foot of the hill said to us "Now go in boys, and get my mother's son of them!" We crossed a small creek and drew up in battle line. The order was given: "Unsling carbines and take aim!". The order was given: "Drop carbine, draw saber and charge!". As soon as the Rebs saw 6 or 7 hundred sabers flash in the sun (it was a bright & hot day), they turned and tried their best to get away. But we were soon in their midst and many a Rebel saddle was emptied in a short time in that wild scramble. I did my best to hurt somebody, for I slashed and stabbed at any and everything in my way. I am glad to be able to now say that I don't know of anyone I hit or hurt. Our loss was trifling, the Rebs were too anxious to get away to fight. Their loss in killed and captured was quite considerable. Charlie Weigel and Geo. Thompson, in their excitement, got too far into the Rebel front. As the Rebs knew they could not hold them, they took their horses and arms and let them go. They were waiting for us by the roadside horseless and without arms.
From this time until the Rebels reached the Tennessee River, our regiment saw no more of the Johnnies, only a few dead ones along the roadside that the advance guard killed. They crossed on a pontoon bridge their friends had laid for them, and when our command came up, it had been taken up and sent away. Here ended our chase. They got away with an immense amount of plunder, horses and stock included. It was said he, Wheeler, crossed with 100 army wagons loaded down with valuable plunder of every description. But we punished them good for it in killed, captured and wounded.
We remained here a few days and then went up to Huntsville, Alabama. We laid here very quiet, nothing doing on either side. Both parties were glad to rest, especially as the rainy season was approaching (the winter in that part of the south). One day while there, a detail of army wagons with a guard was sent to go to Nashville for supplies: about 100 wagons and 2 or 300 men. Our Sutler, Bob Sterling, came to me and asked if I would take two teams along for him and see that they go there and back in safety. There was no order against their going, but they had go at their own risk; no guard was given them or even allowed. He said he would send a cook along and I could use a wagon to sleep in, and I could have the best
he had, too. Well, I told him I would do the best I could under existing orders, and I really did so. I told 3 of the boys to ride near the wagons and, if attacked, to rush the teams to the front. By allowing them to help themselves to anything eatable and to smoke all the cigars they wanted, they said "You bet we will!". And they faithfully did so. We arrived at Nashville without any trouble, loaded up and got back to camp the same way. It was the finest and best time I had during the war. A regular picnic all the way & time.
One day our Col., with one battalion, went out and captured a Rebel train. It had one million $1,000,000 dollars aboard, going to Richmond, I presume. And it was in Uncle Sam's greenbacks at that! Where they got it from I never heard, but the Col. turned it over to our headquarters in Chattanooga. While we were at Maysville, Ala., the battles of Lookout Mountain and Mission Ridge were fought and won by Grant. We had no share in either (our usual luck), but we were in hearing of the guns. About mid December, we broke camp and in a few days arrived at Pulaski, Tennessee.
We were taken to a hillside with hardly any wood or timber to start a fire with. Here and there was a rotten tree standing and a few water soaked logs laying around, and none of the boys had even a shelter or dog tent, except myself. I had a small wedge tent to protect my books and quarterly reports. As winter and the rainy season was at hand, it was a dour prospect for the boys. It rained, hailed and snowed a little every day. Old men told us that it was the coldest & hardest winter they had seen for 60 years, and lots or the most of them had never seen any snow before. It was to us amusing to improvise anything into sleighs or sleds: boards, shingles, tubs or anything that had a flat and smooth surface to slide down the hill with. There was hardly enough snow to cover the ground and melted nearly as fast as it came down. The ground was soon a mess of mud and slush. We scavenged around the town and country to find food to cook with and to keep from freezing. The boys had to find the best spot they could to make their beds on and in the morning would find their blankets frozen to the ground and all covered with mud. Most of them never laid down, but built a log fire and spent the night smoking, telling stories and dozing around the fire. As I said, I had a small tent and every night I would take in all I could by turns, but I could never get brother Dave to come in. "Shaw", he would
say, "I would rather sit around the fire then lay in that stuffy old tent". One night a funny thing happened. I invited Tom Allen, Horton Dickinson and one more (whose name I now can't think of) for the night. The tent was pitched on sloping ground and Horton laid on the lower side. It was a pretty tight squeeze, so we had to snuggle up pretty close. It was raining pretty hard that night, too. In the middle of the night we were all awakened by Horton cursing; swearing and damning somebody and everybody. As Horton never used profane language (he was the goody good boy of the company), we thought something serious had happened. It seems that Horton's head had, in some way, gotten outside of the tent, and someone passing by had stepped right on his face with their muddy, wet boots. The rain on him had failed to waken him, but that did. Oh, but he was mad! No wonder he swore, but he never found out who did it. Of course, it was accidental. None of the boys would do it on purpose, but it spoiled his night.
A few days (perhaps a week) after being there, the Adjutant came around telling us that Uncle Sam was so fond of the old soldiers, his dear brave veterans, that he wanted them to re-enlist for the war. As inducement, he would give us four hundred dollars in bounty, a 30 day furlough home and the 4 months pay then due us. Now, had we been in a comfortable camp with plenty of supplies, he would not have gotten half the regiment. But to get out of this hole, where we were half starved and nearly frozen with the prospect of remaining here until we all died or re-enlisted, the offer was too tempting. So when he came around for our decision and enlistment papers, out of the then 600 odd men, 550 signed the papers. So, were in for the war for however long it lasted. Our company now was 55 strong, not counting the 3 commissioned officers and, out of those, all but three re-enlisted. These 3 were: W. J. Morgan, Jacob Schreiner and Matt Flanagan. The last 2 we did not care about as they had become worthless to the company, no more need be said. So the next day we turned over our horses & equipment. We kept our arms until we reached Nashville, as we went there the 60 miles on foot and were in the enemies' country. We re-enlisted at Pulaski, Tennessee, December 31st, 1863.
Left there Jan. 1st, 1864, and arrived in Nashville in 2 or 3 days after. We camped in a very large hall in a home, in what had been a lecture room.
There were 2 or 3 companies of us, and it was a very crowded room. Oh, but we were a sight! We had not been able to draw any clothes for nearly 8 months, so we were, to say, literally covered with grey backs. Of course, as money was plentiful (we all had been paid off, our $400 dollars bounty and 8 months pay), we lived pretty high and went to the theater &c. When we got back to our quarters, the first thing we did was to strip off every stitch of clothing and hunt for our tormentors, and great was the slaughter thereof. It would have been a funny sight to see 2 or 3 hundred stark naked men so busily engaged in a still hunt for vermin. This is not pleasant to relate or read, but the truth must be told. And, as this is not a war history in any sense, only a personal experience intended for my children, it will not be seen by many. So, few will be shocked.
We remained in Nashville 10 days or so, then boarded a steamer. We went down the Cumberland and Ohio, arriving at Cairo without any incident happening worth mentioning. We arrived at Cairo late one afternoon, but alas, the Provost Marshall would not let any of us get off to see the town. Our reputation had evidently gotten ahead of us. They say that when the people at Clarksville heard of our coming, the cry was "Lock all the doors, and look to your chicken coops, the 5th Iowa Jay Hawkers are coming!". So we had to stay on the boat all that night. Well, we amused ourselves the best we could. There was no liquor allowed the men, but the private bottle was not wanting. The officers, of course, could get all they wanted, but all were on their good behavior as we were nearing home. I well remember the songs and stories of that night on the deck and all parts of the boat. After supper the officers gathered around the tables and poker was the order. At the 1st table were Capt. Moreing, Bob Sterling and 2 Lieutenants, whose names I now can't recall. The game went on quietly with small stakes & little loss or gain until whisky, which by that time began to flow freely, got its hand in. Then the stakes began to increase more. Capt. Moreing and Bob Sterling were now the only ones in the game, the others dropped out having, I presume, lost considerable money. I was sitting by the side of Capt. Moreing, who at this time was a heavy winner. He had a big stack of greenbacks in front of him (all of $3000 dollars), he was drinking hard and noticing that whiskey was getting the best of him. I begged him to stop and go to bed, but he would not listen to me. Bob Sterling (who by the way was our Sutler and a shrewd gambler) had perfected not drinking but, on the sly,
spilled the liquor on the floor while constantly urging Moreing on. I saw his trick, and so tried hard to get the Capt.'s notice. Sterling then told me to mind my business and Moreing also told to go to bed. So I went back to the stateroom that he and I occupied. I felt sure he would lose all he had to start with before they quit the game, but I could do nothing to prevent it. It turned out that sometime about 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning he came stumbling in, and it awakened me. I asked him how he came out, and he said "I guess I've lost that pile you saw before me as you left". I think he lost most of his pay too, for very soon after we left he came to us asking for a loan. He said he gave almost all to his sisters. Well, in the early morning we were hustled aboard a train waiting for us, and so without accident or incident we landed in Dunleith.
We found that the good people of Dubuque had come over in 3 or 4 large omnibus sleighs to welcome us. But, as we did not arrive until about 1:00 am and they weather was very cold (it was about the last of January, 1864), they went home, but left the sleighs and drivers there to wait for us. They lost no time in getting us over, either. Oh, how good it felt to be at home in dear old Dubuque after nearly 3 years roughing it! Most of the boys went right home as Dave did, but I went to the tenement house still run by Mr. Dickinson, my comrade Horton's father. In the morning as we went out on the streets, we found the town plastered over with bills saying or rather reading: "Turn out citizens! 35 heroes are amongst us! A big rally will be held this evening to receive them!" And it was indeed a fine demonstration and did our hearts good. They told us the town and all it contained was ours, and hoped we would have the time of our life during our stay. And we did have it, too, and they lived up to their promise. Nothing was too good for us. We went to banquettes, dinners and dances nearly every night. It was, for a few days, hard for us to pay for anything we wanted to buy; but they got over that. When I left the hotel in the morning, the first thing I did was I went down to the old store. It was early, so I saw only poor Matt Ploeckly. He almost broke his neck jumping over the counter to hug me. I wanted a pair of suspenders so, when I reached for my wallet, I found I did not have it. So I rushed back to the hotel and up to my room and met the chamber maid just coming out. She had my wallet in her hand, having found it under my pillow. I guess I was glad. There was between 5 or 600 dollars in it, all my pay and bounty. Then I went home, and the reception
I met with can be imagined, for all the family were there. I gave mother 300 dollars and told her not to give me any if I asked for it. And I will here say that when our time was up I was nearly strapped, but I did not ask her for any. I should have stated in its proper place that after we got our money in Nashville we all bought new uniforms, the best that regulations and rank allowed. So, we made a pretty fine show on the streets of Dubuque, like a lot of Brigadier Generals. One day we all turned out in cutters, each with his best girl. I took my sister Mary, as my best girl was then in Platteville. We rode all over town and up around the hills. We made it as lively as we could, and oh, how we were cheered! It was a great day for us. It being leap year, the girls gave us a leap year party and dance at the Lorimer House (now the Wales) one evening. The girls called for us in sleighs. Miss Hanna Jones was my girl for the time (she married Randolph Kohouse after the war). And so our 30 days flew by only too quickly, but we did have a good time and one we long remembered. To our credit, it can be said there was no rowdyism, riot or serious infraction of the law, nor very little drunkenness amongst us. We realized that we were at home and being treated by all in the best possible way, so we tried to show the good people our appreciation of their treatment of us by showing them that soldiers also could be gentlemen. Well, our time was up and over so we had to go. On the 7th of March we got our duds together after a fervent, and often tearful, farewell and a God bless and bring all of you safely back to us from parents, brothers, sisters & sweethearts. We crossed the river partly in boats, for the river was about to open. When all were over, we once more turned to wave a last farewell, as a large party of our folks and friends came down to the river with us. And to quite a number, it was a last farewell indeed. Forever they sleep in a soldiers grave away down south, my dear brother Dave amongst them.
We boarded the train and in a few hours were in Davenport, our rendezvous for the regiment. We were soon hustled out to the barracks on the hill into the dirtiest, meanest, most dissolute camp I ever saw. It consisted of low houses or shanties, poorly ventilated and in every way too mean for a dog to live in. Our good times were over, indeed. We did expect better quarters and treatment from Iowa people, and from the home of a number of our regiment. So most of us that had any money left went downtown to live. I had very little left, but as Capt. Moreing was under
considerable obligation to me, I trusted to his seeing me through. He was staying at the Burtis House, the finest & largest hotel in the city. So there I went and registered. Meeting Moreing in the lobby, all he said was "Hello Joe, you stay here", so here I stayed. I had a fine room and at meal time ordered the best on the bill of fare, until orders came to board the train for the front. I walked out, asked no questions and, as no bill was presented me, I took it for granted that the Captain had fixed it all ok. But I have always doubted it as he had no money, only what he borrowed from us boys while in Dubuque, and his credit was anything but good with the officers of the regiment. We boarded the train, and off to the war again were we. We soon arrived at Cairo, a dismal old hole to pass time in. We waited a whole day for the boat. At last it arrived. We got aboard, went up the Ohio to Smithland, then up the Cumberland along now (to us) familiar scenes. Fort Donelson looked forlorn and lonesome. At Clarksville there was neither band, banners nor reception committees to give us the glad hand, but that is always the kind of treatment that good people receive from those they are trying to convert from their evil ways. We felt real bad over it. In due time we arrived at Nashville, were taken out about 3 miles to a real fine camping ground, calling it after our new Col. Patrick. So here we were once more.
Camp Patrick was a fine camp, located on high ground, dry and healthy. It was about 3 miles south of the city of Nashville, Tennessee and ½ mile east of the Murfreesboro dusty pike. At the north end, a fine little creek gave us plenty water for our horses and all needed camp uses, except for our drinking and cooking uses, and this was supplied by a fine spring on the other side of the creek. The only fault to be found was the scarcity of trees for shade for ourselves and horses. On the west side, on still higher ground about ½ mile from our camp, there was a fine southern mansion occupied by the owner of it and our campground. The creek spoken of flowed west into some fenced grounds. The road from said mansion ran within about 50 yards or so of the creek, so when these people wanted to get to the city on the pike, they had to pass that way. Now the creek was a fine bathing place, and we used it at all times. The people, in passing, could not help but see us unless they turned their head, which they never did. In the carriage there were always several finely dressed, good looking ladies. They never turned their heads away, but smiled. It seemed to amuse them. So, as
it did not offend them (it certainly did not us), we kept it up as long as we were there. One day a very hard wind storm struck camp. There was only a little rain but it laid a great many tents flat. In my tent there were, at the time, 3 or 4 of the boys. We hung on to the poles & tent with all our might and managed to keep it upright, but there was an sad accident caused by it. One of the Company A boys was killed, actually cut in two, by the falling of one of the few trees in camp across his tent. I saw him, and it was a cruel thing to see. Well, we spent the time here in the usual way: drilling, camp duties &c, until the evening of the 7th of July. That is when orders came to be ready with 3 days' rations and to break camp at early dawn the following morning. It was understood to be a raid on the Rebs' line of communications, to do all the damage we could to their lines of supply & transportation by tearing up their railroads, depots & stores of any kind and capturing all the prisoners we could. In fact, to inflict all the damage of any kind we could in every possible way. Of course, we were all eager to go and all fully expected to. I had attended to all the Quarter Master's needs of the company as to issuing arms, ammunition and clothing to the men that needed them. My books and papers were safely packed and, lastly, my own needs attended to. I had to work hard and fast to accomplish it. To my bitter disappointment, late in the night, an order came around stating the Adjutant of the regiment, a Lieutenant of Co. F and myself were detailed to remain in camp until further orders. We were to drill the 350 to 400 recruits, of whom 35 or 40 were with our company, and in all ways prepare them for active duty when ordered to the front. They were mostly the greenest of the green, and were a hard lot to put in shape as food for Rebel powder. It was a bitter pill for all. I tried hard to have the order rescinded as far as it concerned me, but it was no go. The Captain said he could not help me, the order had to be obeyed. So I determined to fix up Dave in a full new suit from hat to shoes, new revolver & carbine as well as bridle and saddle. Reveille blew before sunrise on the morning of the 8th of July, 1864. Breakfast over for horse & man, mount, front into lines, a last hand grab and good-by. Then the bugle, by fours, forward, march. And soon our comrades and friends were out of sight. This was my last good-by and the last I ever saw of my dear brother David. I felt almost heartbroken and brooded over it for many days after they had gone. From that time on, until we joined the regiment
late in October or early November, we spent in camp trying to do our full duty by the men in drill &c &c.
Early in August we got the first news about our boys from Oscar Reece, who came in from the front. Our regiment with three others had reached our lines about 2 weeks after leaving us. They had accomplished all they had set out to do, and more, and had a number of skirmishes in which Billy Morgan and Dave had proved themselves heroes. On one occasion, they captured 2 Rebels who were fully equipped and Billy and Dave's carbines did not have a cartridge in them. When they ordered the 2 Rebs to throw down their guns and surrender, they promptly did. This reads a good deal like a Munchausen story, but it is true in every detail, corroborated by a number of the boys that saw it and Billy Morgan yet lives to tell it. But that was like him & Dave. The boys say they were always the first in and the last out of every skirmish or fight. They remained in camp about two weeks on the north bank of the Chattahoochee River, in front of the Rebel lines and in sight of Atlanta. Sometime towards the last of July, they (our reg.) with 3 others under Gen. Ed McCook were sent on an expedition south, in the rear of the Rebel lines, to cut their communications with their source of supplies and reinforcements. Our regiment was commanded by Maj. Harlon Baird and our company by 1st Lieutenant Andrew Guler. Our valiant Captain and that great 2nd Lieutenant O. A. Langworthy were too tired to go. Only those that had good sound horses were allowed to go. Brother Dave's horse was completely used up so he had to stay back, much against his will. The command had gone but a few miles when Billy Andrews got sick. Dave gladly took his horse, and so he rode out to his death; Billy to camp, safety and home with the rest of us fortunate ones. They rode into the Rebel lines and destroyed mile after mile of railroad tracks, besides a great deal of other property. One day they captured a large wagon train with its guard, teamsters &c. They burned the train and paroled the men. If now they had turned back, all would have been well. They had done all and more they had set out to do and the line of retreat was yet open. But no, fate had ordered it otherwise. They kept on one more day, and then it was too late. A large Rebel force was after them. They now tried another route to try and cut their way out, but on the 30th of July they were brought to bay and to stop and fight. This took place at Newnan, Georgia, 4 miles south of it and about 60 miles south of Atlanta, on the
plantation of an old retired Presbyterian Minister by the name of Cook. Here they stopped and fought a greatly superior force for 3 or 4 hours. Our boys had a battery of 3 guns, light field artillery, which they unlimbered right in the rear of said Minister's house (a log one, but quite a comfortable one). The boys made hard use of those guns, they checked several Rebel rushes and no doubt did great damage. They, the Rebels, were hidden from our men, sheltered by heavy brush and timber and seldom showed themselves except when they attempted a charge. But the Gen., seeing that all would be up with them in a short time as they were being hemmed in closer and closer and the last possible chance for retreat cut off, ordered our regiment to dismount and charge them in hopes of gaining a little time to get out to the yet clear road. And right gallantly did the dear old 5th Iowa respond. They scattered the Rebs in that charge far enough to gain time for those that yet had horses to gain the road, and then it was every man for himself. The unhorsed boys took to the brush and tried to escape that way, but only a very few reached camp. The rest were captured, and for months after suffered all the martyrdom of that hell on earth: Andersonville. Quite a number died there, amongst which was Martin Tebbets. A quiet man, but a good soldier and a civil engineer for the ICRR when he enlisted with us in 1861. He was one of our company. In that fatal charge my dear brother Dave was instantly killed by being shot in the head. He died as he said he would like to if he had to die: a soldiers death on the field. In coming back from that charge most of the men saw him lying there. One of them, Horton, was brave and thoughtful enough to stop and take his revolver to bring to me. But as he had lost his horse, he saw the chances of getting away very poor. He gave it to Henry Sauer, who was on horseback, telling him to give it to me with the particulars, which he did, for he got to our lines in safety. The most foolish thing I ever did, and shall always regret, was that I did not keep it and bring it home, but turned it over to the government.
Lieutenant Guler had also lost his horse, so he with 3 or 4 of the boys took to the woods. They were striking out in the direction of our army when they were suddenly confronted by a squad of Rebels who at once demanded their surrender. All the boys surrendered except Lieut. Guler. He refused and showed fight and he was instantly killed. Guler was a good man and a brave soldier. He was not brilliant, but was well liked by the
company and very popular at home. No one knows where his grave is, as he was left where he fell. He probably fills one of the many graves marked unknown. The only one in that party that escaped was Oscar Martin. He dropped behind a log when the Rebs shot, crept in the bushes unnoticed and, after the party marched off, struck into the woods and was off wandering around a week or 10 days. Protected, fed and guided, he finally reached Marietta, Ga. without hardly any clothes, hat or shoes, but oh, so happy. I had gone to the regiment to learn what particulars I could of brother David's death and was returning back to my command when here, fortunately, he saw me. I took him back with me and fixed him up so he was once more a soldier, it was from him I learned the particulars about Guler's death &c. The train we went back on was a hospital train loaded to its fullest capacity with wounded from the front, so the only room for us was the top. When we reached Decherd Station at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains, it began to get dark and a very bad lot of clouds were coming down on us from the north. Then it rained and blew. Oh, how it did rain and blow! We only had a foot wide plank to lay on and hold onto. It was a fearful night, and we expected every moment to be blown off. But, as all things will, this night ended also. In the morning the train rolled into the depot at Nashville, where we were thankful to God for our narrow escape. We arrived at Camp Patrick nearly famished, wet as drowned rats and more then glad to find ourselves safely back in camp.
When we came back from our furlough we were short three companies of the regiment. The Minnesota boys, companies G, I and K had left us. They remained north and were formed into what was from that time on known as Brackett's Battalion. During the balance of the war they were fighting Indians out west and did gallant service. In their place the famous 5th Iowa Infantry (who so greatly distinguished themselves at Corinth, Mississippi), who now were reduced to such numbers as to form only three companies, was incorporated with our regiment and so formed the companies of G, I & K. We were glad to have these brave boys with us and now felt that we were indeed Iowa boys. About this time, our Col. Patrick resigned and left us. J. Morris Young, the Capt. of Co. C, became our Colonel. He was promoted over Maj. Harlon Baird, why or what for I never learned, but he was a brave little cuss (as they boys put it), and led us gallantly throughout the rest of the war. About the middle of October the
regiment came back from the front to rest and fix up, and they needed it too. They were a worn out, sorry looking lot and the horses were about played out. So about Nov. 1st, those yet mounted went down to Kentucky after fresh horses. On the way and while at Cave City, the presidential election took place, Lincoln versus McClellan. The boys went down into the famous Mammoth Cave to cast their ballots and, out of the 5 or 600 men, only 5 or 6 voted for McClellan. A few days after the reg. got to camp, we were ordered to the front and joined, or rather met, the army corps under Gen. Schofield near Columbia, Tennessee. They were retreating slowly and fighting every inch of ground. The Rebel Army under Gen. Hood, with a largely superior force of 50 to 60,000 men, was trying to prevent our army of 30 to 35,000 men from getting to Nashville, along with Sherman's immense train loaded with millions of dollars worth of stores of all kinds which he did not need or want on his march to the sea. After his capture of Atlanta, he rested his tired soldiers and laid in all needed supplies for 60 days. He sent Gen. Thomas back with Schofield's Corps to look after Tennessee, Kentucky &c &c, instructing him to pick up all the troops along the way that were guarding posts, railroads and stockades to prevent their capture. He, with his army, at first for some days followed him hoping to find give him battle and destroy him once for all. But Hood eluded him, so he (Sherman) sent Thomas his final instructions, returned to Atlanta and, after a few days and after practically destroying Atlanta as far as possible to make it useless as a base of supplies for the Rebels, he left. He cut the telegraph wires and cut off all communication with the north and started on his famous march to the sea with 60,000 of the best soldiers, infantry, cavalry and artillery that the world ever saw. He left Thomas a hard job, for now the Rebs thought they saw their opportunity to capture and hold all they lost, possibly cross the Ohio River, get into Ohio and Indiana and so perhaps end the war in their favor. To that end they bent every energy, marched, fought and starved with such bravery and fortitude as only the American soldier could or would. They were brave soldiers and I willingly pay that tribute to them. Their defeat was a foregone conclusion, for they were fighting in a bad cause and against American soldiers just as brave and determined as themselves in a righteous cause. Hood crossed the Tennessee at Florence, Alabama, and there our trouble began. We had to fight him every step of the way. If not for a misunderstanding, or as Hood claims a disobedience, of his orders (and
that by one of his best Generals), he would have captured a large part of the train, if not all of it, at Spring Hill and perhaps got into our rear. That would have been a disaster, even now in 1909, too awful to contemplate. But it was not to be. By rapid traveling, our trains escaped and were kept on the go until they reached Franklin. On the morning of the 29th of November, our brigade under (I think it was) our Col. Young was sent out on the Lewiston Pike to the Duck River (some 20 miles) to guard the ford on the left flank in order to prevent Forrest with his cavalry from crossing and getting into the rear of our army. When we came within in a mile of the river early in the afternoon, we camped in the woods on the right of the pike and right opposite a log house. Then deserted, this is where our Colonel made his headquarters. We had hardly gotten our horses unsaddled and no time to make even a cup of coffee when the order came for Co. E to go to the river and picket it. Of course, orders had to be obeyed. In a short time we reached the river. Seeing no Johnny Rebs, we crossed the ford and sent out one advance guard. After riding about one mile the guard suddenly stopped, then rode back on a gallop and said the Rebels were thick as black berries out there in the brush, waiting for us to come on a little farther to get us in the trap they had set. That satisfied us that our friends in butternut were on hand and willing to entertain us to their hospitalities. We turned and went back across the ford, feeling sure we would soon see them. And so we did. We had hardly reached our side when we saw them, as the boys said, thick as black berries on the opposite side. One thing in our favor was the bank on our side was much higher than theirs. We were on a hill side and could shoot down at them; they had to shoot at us uphill. Neither side had much protection. There were very few trees on either side and, what few there were, were, as often was the case, appropriated by the officers. They probably thought their orders given from behind trees or stumps would be plainer and better understood by the men. They were never afraid or scared, oh no! At least, so they said after the fighting was over. We skirmished and shot at each other all the afternoon and, though the bullets zipped past our ears (and no doubt theirs, too) pretty lively, I know on our side no one was killed or even badly hurt. How it was with the boys in butternut, we did not stop to inquire. For very soon matters that were of more interest to us reached us from our camp on the pike. The sun was now going down and we thought we were to stay
all night. We were told to unsaddle our horses and give them a feed and rub down, get a cup of coffee for ourselves, then saddle up again to be ready for any call. I can distinctly remember that I had not yet got my saddle on the ground or the bridle off my horse when an Orderly from camp came rushing up crying "Saddle up! Saddle up! The Rebels are in our camp!". Well, we saddled up, and never in quicker time, and made for camp in short order. When we reached it we found our regiment there alone. At the first alarm, and before the Rebs got on the pike between us and the army at Franklin, the other regiments skedaddled for safety as fast as their horses would go. Our brave little red headed Colonel (Young) waited for us to come up, vowing he would not desert his boys. It seems a small force of Rebs crossed a ford above us that we knew nothing of, coming up so unawares into our camp through the woods and taking our camp entirely by surprise. When we came up it was dark. We found our regiment in line awaiting us a little farther down the pike, where they had fallen back to. The Rebs did not attack him. I presume they were waiting for the rest of their command to come up. But they had built campfires, barricaded the pike with logs & timber for quite a distance, had taken possession of the log house spoken of and knocked out the mud chinking it was plastered with to poke their guns through. The fires on the road blinded us so we could not see them, but they could see us plainly. They were so near us as we slowly fought our way through them and the barricades that it would have been easier for them to knock us off our horses with their guns than to shoot us. In that lack of safety, we then escaped with so little loss: 35 or 40 in our regiment, mostly captured. As soon as our company was in line, forward was the order. Our advance had the worst of it, for they had to break down the barricades as much as possible. They did it pretty well, for we did get over them, or very nearly all did. Our buglers were with the advance, and every time a barricade was leveled (or nearly so) they sounded forward loud and clear. Oh, how good and grand those bugles sounded! No one but a soldier will, or can, comprehend that. They send a thrill through me to this day, 45 years after, when I think of that night. W. S. Tebbets was riding by my side and, as we passed that log house, the Johnnies peppered us fast and hard. Every time they gave us a volley it lit up the old house and blinded us on that side, too. At one of their salutes Tebbets turned towards me and said "Sergeant, don't that make you think of the 4th of July?". Just at that time
I was thinking of other matters, but he was always a cool one. It was when we were nearly past the line of fires and over the barricades when my horse suddenly stumbled on one of the barricades and, prepared as I thought I was, it nearly unhorsed me. My feet flew out of both stirrups and I had to catch the mane of my horse with the bridle in my left hand. My revolver was, of course, in my left hand, and I did not want to lose that. I pretty quickly regained my stirrups and recovered myself and, by that time, I was past their lines and barricades. I was all alone. Not one of our men was in sight or hearing, so fast had they gone after getting out of that trap. It was pitch dark on an unknown road with Rebels all around me. It was a trying time. I shall never forget it or that night. I expected every moment to be killed or captured, but all I could do was to go on and take my chances. I knew I was on the pike that lead to Franklin, but did not know if my horse might not get into some other road and lead me right into the Rebels' lines. I thought "Surely by this time the pike would be full of Forrest's men", so, giving my horse a free rein and commending myself to providence and my horse's instinct, I urged him on as fast as he would go. He needed but little urging, as he really seemed to share my thought. I rode on for perhaps one and a half hours, when all at once I heard sharp and clear "Halt! Who comes there!". At once I thought "Good-by Joe, you will soon see the boys in Andersonville." I answered "A friend without the counter sign, one of the boys of the brigade picketing Duck River and of the 5th Iowa Cavalry!" He then ordered me to advance, throw down my arms &c. To my great surprise and joy it was a Union picket guard and I was safe in our lines. He told me our regiment had come straggling in, the last not very long ago, and were in camp ahead not too far away. I pushed on and in a short time found myself right amongst my own Co. E. There was no loss in our company, strange as it seems. Where we were at such a disadvantage and where the Rebels had us just where the wanted us, it seems almost a miracle that half the regiment was not killed and captured that terrible night. The loss in the regiment, I think, was from 35 to 40 altogether.
The next day, Nov. 30th, was a never to be forgotten day. Terrible in its consequences for the Confederacy. Our army had come to a halt at Franklin. It had to do so to save the immense train it had brought so far and now so near safety, but to retreat without a fight now meant its loss and
a fearful disaster to us. Although the Rebels were badly crippled, we were in the same fix. They largely outnumbered us, but we had to risk it so as to give the trains a chance to pull out while we fought them and held them in check. Early that morning the infantry and everybody that could be spared was set to work throwing up such breastworks as the short time allowed. They were slight, hardly 3 feet high, yet still considerable protection. A little stream flowed through the north end of the town, called the Harpeth River. Most of our army crossed it and then awaited the foe. On the south side there was a little mud fort, the only thing in shape of a fort anywhere around. There Schofield and some of his Generals waited for the Rebel advance. We (our regiment) were sent out on the right flank to guard that point. It was about 3 o'clock in the afternoon when a commotion was seen in the Rebel Army, about one mile away and in plain sight. In what seemed only a few moments, they came on in battle formation, seven ranks deep, brigade front, bayonets glistening and battle flags waving. It was a grand sight. One that is, thank God, seldom seen in this country and, once seen, is never forgotten. To us it was fearfully grand. In almost less time than I can now write it they were in our front, charging up and on the slight works. Some of them broke through and got right in the midst of our men. On the left, under Gens. Stanley and Opdycke, for a short time it looked like defeat. But fighting like lions with bayonet, clubbed musket and revolver (for now it as hand to hand), our boys held their ground. The Rebs at that point fell back for a short time only to try again and again, only to meet the same fate. Here Gen. Stanley was badly wounded in the neck and had to leave the field. In the center the fighting was even fiercer. This was the vital point. If they (the Rebs) could break through there, the day would be theirs and the way open to them to Nashville and, as they hoped, victory for the Confederacy. They fought as only desperate men can fight. On they came, seven ranks deep with their well known Rebel yell. Time and again, all that fatal afternoon did they charge those breastworks, and just so often did our gallant boys hurl them back with bloody defeat. Seven times they came right on top of the works only to find a soldier's death there. Gen. Pat Cleburne was found dead beside his horse on the top, he was one of the best and bravest of Hood's Generals. General Adams, also one of Hoods trusted leaders, fell right at the foot of the works. We on the right had no share in this bloody
work. The Rebels seemed not to care for this position and did not attack us. We could only stand and wait. It was a terrible sight to see, as we only could when a breeze would lift the smoke of battle. Then we could see the struggling mass of humanity, friend and foe in a hand to hand conflict with fully a hundred cannons hurling their shot and shell into their midst. The uproar was something frightful to hear. One that has once heard the scream of shells coming towards him will never forget it. It was the infantry and artillery that saved this day, the cavalry could only look on and witness this terrible scene. We had to obey orders and we did it by safeguarding our flanks, and so of course our rear. It was really nearly as bad to sit still on our horses and see our boys fighting so desperately as to be in the midst of it. The battle raged all afternoon until night came on. Both sides were glad to lay down and rest, so near each other as to almost shake hands. Only the artillery kept up a duel all night long, the shell and shot flying, screaming over us as we lay flat on the damp ground. We had been called in at dark and were in the rear of our forces. Our trains had been retreating all afternoon and night, our army silently fell into line and followed as the last wagon pulled out of Franklin. It was a train 16 miles long, one wagon following the other as closely as possible. As the first wagon entered the defenses of Nashville, the last one was just leaving Franklin. Those that have not seen an army with its train on the move will hardly realize that this is possible, yet it is so. I myself was there to see it, and saw it at different places and times in camp and while in motion. So the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee ended, and ended in fearful defeat to the Rebel army. Even though we retreated and they held ground, we had gained our object, viz., saved our trains and army. They were now safe behind the defenses of Nashville with, of course, considerable loss in men & animals. I think not over 1,000 men, about 600 of these in the Battle of Franklin, but not one wagon was lost. Whereas, the Rebel loss was fearful: 5,000 of their dead and wounded were laying in and around Franklin. Some of them in the yards of their own homes. One officer was killed on his very doorstep. Besides losing heavily in officers (some of them the best in his (Hood's) army such as Cleburne and Adams), it must have been a terrible blow to him, his men and to the citizens of Franklin (for this was the home of a good many of his men) to then see his prey slip through his hands. He had fully made up his mind to capture Schofield and his army and trains.
They fought right under the eyes, in many instances, of fathers, mothers, sisters and sweethearts. So, indeed, many of the poor fellows came home to die. This battle was one of the noted and finest conflicts of the war, and its consequences were far reaching, as will be seen later on.
We had been notified during the night that our regiment was to be the rear guard of the army. So after the last regiment had gone, we mounted and by four front followed our retreating army. Day was just breaking as our company pulled out. We again had the honor of being the rear guard of the entire host, regiment and all. I was to be with 8 or 10 men (forgot just the exact number) to be the very last of all by about ¼ mile. Day was at hand, the Rebs were in plain sight, and many times did we look back expecting to see them after us. But no, they never made a move, and we all breathed a deep sigh of relief when the last one of us got out of their sight. We could never understand why they let us go so easy. They had been fearfully punished and badly demoralized in some of their commands in the battle, so they perhaps did not feel able to follow us up at once. Or, they may have regarded us as their certain prey when they got us cooped up in Nashville. At any rate they did not molest us. We had gone about 10 miles, to a station called Brentwood, where we saw a group of officers on horseback waiting at the foot of a hill. When our company came up, they halted us and told us they wanted us as their escort. We were there perhaps a little over an hour when we saw the advance guard of the Rebel army coming with their banners waving and in no seeming hurry when they caught sight of us. There were quite a number of general officers at their head. It was a fine and impressive sight, but we did not stop to shake hands with them! We retired at a slow trot to the suburbs of Nashville and near the forts and defenses. There we (our company) were halted and told to go into camp, our regiment being somewhere near us. When we had gotten things fixed for the night, I looked around and could not find either our Captain or the Lieutenant. They had gone into the city with the other officers without saying a word to me or anyone. A very strange proceeding, and I should have reported it but did not. About dusk it began to rain hard. We were without any shelter, so it was a dreary prospect for us with the Rebs not more than a mile or two behind us in camp. I think, as
well as I can now remember, about 9 o'clock when one of our boys (Al Mathews) came up to me. I was standing beside a large tree for a little shelter with my horse close by when he said to me "Sergeant, I have captured a stray horse that has no brand on it. I think it belongs to the Rebs. I wish you would give me a pass to the city. I know where I can sell him and I will make it all right with you." I was the ranking officer (non comm.) in command of the company, since the Capt. & Lieutenant could not be found, but I very much doubted having the authority to grant any pass. It was a risky thing to do, as we were undoubtedly looked upon as the picket guard and the Rebs, being so near, might at any moment advance. Then there would be trouble, not for me as much as for the Captain, but I felt pretty ticklish about it. After thinking it over a few moments, I told Al to stay right there a short time and I would see what I could do. I trudged along in the rain and mud to find Sgt. Chas. Weigel, next in rank. I found him like the rest, or most of them, cursing and swearing at the luck that kept us out here in such a night. Well to be short about it, I told him that I had to go in town right away and wanted him to take charge of the company and bring it in when relieved in the morning. After grumbling a while he said he would, but wanted to know where to find me or someone else to relieve him then. I told him we would be on the watch for the company when it came in. I also told him to bring my horse as well as Al's with him. I left him and found Al where I left him. I told him I would go with him, but he must agree to give me half of what the horse sold for, which he gladly agreed to. I told him we would leave our horses and ride the captured nag by turns. We did not take either bridle or saddle, but we rode bareback holding on by a rope we tied around his neck. It was pitch dark and still raining. The pike or road was mud knee deep and all cut up by our artillery, horses and wagons. It was a nasty ride. We finally arrived in town without being halted, as I dreaded we would be. Al knew right where to go. We stopped in front of a livery stable and Al went in. He soon came out with a man, and to my great surprise found him to be one of our company named Ensign. He told me he had been detailed there to look after some horses. He had not been with us since the regiment had left Camp Patrick in November. How the Orderly Sergeant had reported him, I never knew. I strongly suspected it to be one of our Captain's tricks which Ensign paid him well for. They were two of a kind. He took our
horse and paid us $50 dollars for him. As we were all completely strapped, it was a welcome raise. Al & I divided the money, went to a restaurant and got a meal such as we had not tasted for months. We then went to a hotel, got a room, went to bed and slept. Oh, how we did sleep! The next morning we saw and joined our regiment and company as they came through the streets. We then crossed the river (the Cumberland) and went into camp at Edgefield, a suburb of Nashville. In the mean time Hood brought his army within two and three miles, threw up strong entrenchments and then besieged us for the next two weeks, sending us shot & shell to let us know he was there. The pickets of both armies soon established friendly relations and guyed each other and swapped their tobacco for our boys coffee &c. They were in our old Camp Patrick and the pickets were on opposite sides of the creek mentioned before. The spring also spoken of was on our side of the picket line. This, by mutual agreement, was neutral ground. A white flag was put there and in the morning both parties (or rather a detail of each) came down to wash and got water to drink & cook with. At such times one would have thought that the best of friends were having a social chat or a picnic. 20 minutes after they would be shooting at each other, and not in fun either. The weather was bad. It was now December and winter had set in with rain and sleet covering the ground with a thin coat of ice, making any movement of the army impossible. We were poorly provided with shelter, as all our tents and camp equipage had been stored away when we started to join the army early in November. We suffered a good deal during the two weeks we laid there. Some of our boys that had been taken prisoners on the McCook raid joined us during this time, having been exchanged. On the morning of the 14th of December we were ordered to move. We again crossed the river and went into camp in the outskirts of Nashville. Late that night orders came to be ready to move at daybreak next morning. We wondered what all this moving around meant, but we were soon enlightened. Reveille woke us up while it was yet dark. We soon got our breakfast of coffee, hard tack and bacon. A little while after, boots and saddles was blown and we were mounted and in line, wondering where or what next. The weather had now moderated and the roads were passable. It was now daylight, but a heavy fog had settled down so that we could hardly see the men or the horses ten feet away, when the bugles sounded forward.
We did not have the faintest idea as to where we were going, but in perhaps 20 or 25 minutes the fog suddenly lifted and we found we were on the Granny White Pike going south. Both sides of the pike or road were lined at parade rest with our infantry and artillery. Then we knew where we were and what we were there for. They were waiting for us to advance and open the ball. As was generally the case in most every battle, the cavalry on each side started the muss. We halted for 10 or 15 minutes and right beside our company was a company of 12th Iowa. The 1st Lieutenant at once came up to me and, holding out his hand, said "Hello Joe!". It was Tip Fuller, a boyhood friend that left Dubuque in the early fifties with his folks for Hopkinton, Iowa. They lived in the old Norton Row on 14th for several years. We parted again in a few moments. I have never seen him since that time, but heard he came out of the war alive. In a few moments the bugle sounded forward by fours, and in less time than as it now seems to me we came in sight of a battery of three guns posted on a hillside in full view of us. They at once opened up on us, and the first shell flew over our company (we were in the advance) so low and near that the wind from it was felt like a blow. Co. H was next to us and Lieut. Jack Watson of Bellevue (a brother in law of lawyer Graham of Dubuque) was instantly killed by it. We then saw it explode in the ranks of the 13th Ill. Infantry on the opposite side of the pike in an open field of 2 or 300 yards. Now this was a little tough. They had us in full view and range. Orders were orders, so we charged across in a full gallop. How it came that not one us were hurt will always be a mystery to us. It may be that the range was too close, as we knew the shells flew over us. I presume they did more damage to those in the rear. We now formed in battle line. Draw saber and charge was now the order, and in full gallop the regiment was on over the field and up that hill. No sooner did the Rebs see the sabers out than they turned their guns the other way and got out in double quick time. We got one of their guns, they only had time to get away with 2 of them. This was on the 15th day of December, 1864, and was the opening of the two day Battle of Nashville. It was here that Hood's army was almost totally annihilated as he crossed the Tennessee River with but a ragged remnant of the 50 to 60,000 men that he crossed the same river with only about one month before. Well, we chased them all that day but gave them no time to halt and turn their guns on us. It was a running
fight in which they had the advantage, but not much harm was done. We went into camp that night pretty tired but very thankful that we escaped with so little harm. The next day, I think about noon, we found them again ready for us with their battery posted on a hillside (as usual) in a position hard for us to get at. We came in sight of them as we reached the top of a small hill. They were on the other side of an open stretch of ground from 3 To 400 yards away. The only break in it was the little hollow we came to, there was a small pond of water and about the middle of the clearing was a small bunch of crab apple trees. That was all there was to shield us from their fire, and that we could not take any advantage of, small as it was. We began our charge. As soon as they sighted us they blazed away with grape and canister. Corporal Weismer was unhorsed and severely hurt by that discharge. It was too good a thing for them, we were too good a target. So we went down to that hollow and there formed for a charge. We went at them in good style and, although they made away as fast as they could, we would have got some of them and their guns had it not been for a 6 foot rail fence that we did not see on account of a depression in the ground. We could not tear down the fence quick enough to prevent them from getting too big a start for us to catch up with them. We then withdrew and went to the pond spoken of, watered and rested our horses a short time. Then we advanced slowly again, when we heard the guns roaring and the rattle of muskets around Franklin. We were now near there and the Rebs were making a final stand. We threw out our skirmishers, I being in command of them, and advanced in line of battle, but we saw no enemy until we reached the heights overlooking the town. That is when we saw them at a distance of 1 or 1½ miles getting out of Franklin as fast as they could and the cavalry after them. We were not in this. Right here is where my horse gave out. As some 2 or 3 of our boys were in the same fix and several had been left in Nashville on detail, I was told to go back and see to them and, when the regiment got into camp again, to join it with the boys. We slowly rode back, our horses could hardly carry us. We walked and rode by turns and it was a ride I would like to take again. The infantry and their artillery had given up the chase, the cavalry was now left to finish it up. They had little or no opposition to expect as Hood's army had gone to pieces and their Gen. Forrest was all that stood between them and utter extinction.
Only once did he make a stand, on Dec. 25, 1864, to assemble the remnant of Hood's troops to get across the Tennessee. The pike all the way to Nashville was cut up and mud almost knee deep, and lined on the side on the grass with wounded, dead and dying. Mostly they were Rebels, as our men were taken care of first. It was a terrible, fearfully pitiful sight even to us that 4 years had partly hardened. But the worst was on the hill in front of Nashville, where the Rebels had their strongest position and fortifications. Three times some of our best (white) brigades had assaulted this position and each time driven back with terrible slaughter. Then Gen. Steadman was ordered to try it with his black brigade. He did take it, but it was at a terrible cost after several times being repulsed. As we rode over that fatal and fearful part of the field, it was just getting dark, and there these poor, brave fellows lay in numbers we could not count. We rode away as quick as we could. They were so mutilated and cut up by shot and shell that the sight was too horrible to stand & look at.
We went into camp at Edgefield and, for about ten days, did nothing but lay around, draw our rations, eat and sleep. It was a lazy life and we got very tired of it. In the mean time, our regiment with the others had followed the last of the Rebs to the Tennessee River and there and then gave up the pursuit. The Rebels were thoroughly discouraged and never after that were able to get an army of any force together again.
We few in Nashville, finally to our delight, received orders to join our regiment in the early part of January, 1865. We went by steamer down the Cumberland and up the Tennessee and found our regiment in camp at Gravely Springs, Alabama; about 4 miles back from the river and opposite Eastport, Mississippi. The camp was located in a valley amongst the hills and was the poorest, dreariest country we had yet seen in Dixie. The people were all of that poor, ignorant class called white trash whom even the Negroes would not associate with. After being there about two weeks, the commissary stores gave out. The river had fallen so low that steamers could not get up with supplies. And the country back to Nashville, our nearest depot, was so infested with guerrillas and lawless bands from both armies that we could not send back there for anything. All we had to live on for several weeks was nine ears of corn on the cob for man and the same for horses. We made the best of it by parching and crushing it
for coffee and grinding it between two parts of canteens. We perforated them by driving nails through them making it into rough grinders or mills and then, putting the corn in and rubbing together for a while, we got a little meal, such as it was. Out of that we made corn bread and flap jacks. Really, we did quite well and suffered but little from hunger. At last, a few days before we left, the boats arrived and we got a full supply of everything needed. With them came quite a large box from the wives and lady friends of our Jamestown, Wisconsin boys. It was filled with all kinds and sorts of goodies, such as jars of butter, roasted chickens and turkeys, cakes, pies &c &c. It was sent by them the first part of December and intended as a Christmas treat, but at the time we were beyond reach of friends, mail or anything else. So the box laid there all this time. When we opened it, alas, everything was so spoiled and rank that there was very little even us tough fellows could use. What little could be used even in that state the boys generously divided. Tom Allen was my bunky and, as his good wife had been very active in sending the box, he got a jar of butter as part of his share. But, oh my, how rank it was! And how it did smell! But by washing and working it over, we got it so we could use it, especially on our flap jacks. By & by we got used to it, and regretted to see it nearly gone.
One day the latter part of January, I was surprised and greatly delighted to receive a letter from my first and only sweetheart, Nellie Vanderbie. I had given her up as lost to me, hearing of her as having been engaged, if not already married. I read it and re-read it, and at once answered it. (And I would just like to see that letter now!) We had not corresponded for several years, each being misled by gossiping meddlesome fools. She heard the same thing about me (of being engaged &c &c), so we both got our dander up and pouted. We never forgot each other in spite of it all. My mother loved her dearly, so one day while she was visiting at our home she persuaded her to write to me, which she did. The result of that letter is today in full evidence. It can be heard without ear trumpets and seen without the aid of eye glass, so all is well that ends well. Her next letter revealed to me her feelings and enclosed a photo of her dear self, which I carried between the leafs of a memo book for the rest of the war and long after. This was our last correspondence until we reached Nashville again after the close of the war. Her father wrote me for explanations of
things &c &c, which I answered (I think) to his satisfaction, as he did not write again.
Shortly before we left this place, promotions were in order: 2nd Lieut. O. A. Langworthy to 1st Lieut., as 1st Lieut. Victor Andrew Guler was killed, 1st Sgt. L. H. Carley to 2nd Lieut., Vic Langworthy promoted QM Sgt., Josiah Conzett to 1st or Orderly Sgt., Vic Carley promoted and so on down the entire line to 8th Corporal which, lastly, was Geo. W. Healey. Sgt. Chas. Weigel took my place as QM Sgt. The time flew by, nothing of note happening until about the middle of March when orders came to move. 3 days rations and 40 rounds of ammunition for carbine & revolvers were issued. Transportation was cut down to the lowest limit, only one 6 mule team and one ambulance for each regiment. The ammunition train was the longest and, of course, the most important. We were told after our 3 days rations were gone we would have to live off the country. Details from every reg. for foraging were to be sent out every morning for that purpose, and the Quarter Masters were to see to its distribution. No straying or insulting conduct, robbery &c &c to be allowed under the severest penalties, and this order was strictly lived up to during our entire 80 day march through Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
Now I was in a predicament. I had no horse and none were to be had in this barren country. I tried in every quarter, but even by the Capt. and Quarter Master's aid I could not get one. But as there three or four hundred men in the same fix, I did not feel lonesome. We were therefore ordered to escort the train until we could find horses, which we hoped to do in a day or two. Our hopes were not realized until we came within 20 miles of Selma, Ala. We crossed the Tennessee and landed at Eastport, Miss., when we at once struck out into the country. For where or why we did not know, but suspected we were in for a long siege of some kind by the sort or kind of orders issued. The whole command was under Maj. Gen. J. H. Wilson, late of the Potomac; divided into divisions commanded by Gens. Upton, Winslow, Long and Alexander. Our reg. was in Upton's division and Alexander's brigade. The total strength of the command was 12,000 rank & file with a strong battery of 3 or 4 field guns to each brigade. Each man was armed with a saber, Spencer carbine (7 shooter) and one large Navy revolver. A powerful, splendidly equipped, ably commanded, largest force of cavalry ever sent out in the west, if not the entire country, and one we all
felt the Rebels could not stop or withstand. And so it proved to be. We with the train were always 10 to 20 miles behind the main body. The orders were to tear up the railroad tracks, destroy and burn all depots, machine shops and Rebel supply depots and warehouses and confiscate all food stuffs, except only what was needed for the people left at home. Interference and destruction of private property was strictly prohibited & strongly enforced. As this was a part of the country as yet never visited or under federal control for any length of time or by large forces, it was rich in all kinds of material and food stuffs. It was the country the Rebels now relied on for all needed supplies to sustain their armies in the field. This was the, or one of the, main reasons for our raid and our orders, cruel as they seemed. We accomplished it in good, hard shape, as our march left a trail of smoking ruins and destroyed roads from Eastport, Miss. to Columbus, Ga. A distance of 1000 miles by the way we went. It was a fearful scene of destruction, but the only way to end the war. There was no serious fighting, the Rebels could not muster force enough to stop us. All they could hope to do was to delay us until they could get help enough together and then, in some strongly fortified place, meet and give us battle, defeat and drive us back and kill and capture as many of us (if not all) they could. But their hopes were never realized, for our boys just simply ran over them when they showed any fight. So it went until Ebenezer Church, 20 miles north of Selma, Alabama was reached. Up to that time it was only a running fight between our advance & their rear guard. We of the train marched leisurely along without any opposition, so to say. Once in a while we were delayed a few moments by some bushwhackers firing into us from ambush and then get out before we could locate them. We did succeed in killing a few of them. We found out by the weeping, lamenting women of Jasper, who were crying over their dead, and a few of them that lay dead along the roadside.
One morning before daybreak, an Orderly from the front woke me up, suddenly handing me an order to take two ambulances with all the ammunition we could load on and, with an escort or detail, hurry up to the main force 30 or 35 miles ahead. Their ammunition was getting short and they thought the Rebs were going to make a stand. Their great cavalry under General Forrest was now with them at Ebenezer Church,
where they had entrenched themselves strongly. We got ready and started ahead about sun up. We had, in all, 10 or 12 men. We went as fast as we could and, late in the afternoon, came in sight of the village of Montevallo in a valley below us. A sleepy, innocent little southern town and hardly a soul in sight that we could see from where we were. As we were riding down the slope to the town, we all at once saw on the side of the south hills across the valley a mile or so from us, 10 to 12 horsemen, Rebs no doubt, riding at full gallop towards the roadway we had to take on our route. Here, truly, we were in a fine box. However, we went through the town and there we saw quite a number of people, mostly woman and children with a few old gray heads. Now they grew bold, taunted us, saying we would all soon be killed &c &c. We halted on the edge of the town, for we saw that our road would lead us through thick woods. We could not doubt that the woods were full of the grey coats waiting for us to come on and then gobble us up. We saw our danger, but to draw them out, four of us went to within about 150 yards of the woods. When we saw quite a number of the Rebs coming on, dodging behind trees so we would not see the them, we understood their meaning. We drew back to the rest. We did not know what to do. We did not want to retreat, and could not if we wanted to, had we tried it. We knew they would rush out and get us, sure. Why they did not do it at once seemed strange to us. We guessed they would either wait for us to come on or for night so they could get us with little or no loss at all. We decided to stay right where we were. We unhitched the mules, put them behind the wagons for shelter and shielded the ambulances as well as we could. Then, with all the courage and patience we could muster, we waited for coming events and dreaded the now near night ahead. We hoped against hope that the rest of the train would come before dark, but our chances looked very slim. We were determined to give them all the fight we could before they got us. The sun was just going down when suddenly several carbine shots rang out loud and clear from the woods. Then a bugle sounded forward. We saw a commotion in the woods where our friends in grey were. We saw them scatter in all directions, and then saw the advance of our boys with their guidons fluttering in the wind. It was to us the most glorious and welcome sight we ever saw, for we were saved. Saved from imprisonment, if not from death, and it seemed as if only by a miracle.
We were truly thankful for our deliverance. It was Gen. McCook with one of his brigades that had come to meet and hurry us up, as they feared we would not be in time. And he did not come an hour too soon, either. McCook decided to go into camp right where we were, so we waited for the rest of the train, which came up in the morning. We (us boys) were now out of trouble and happy. We came up to the rest of the command late in the day after their fight with Forrest, where they whipped him badly and our regiment distinguished itself greatly. It was the hardest fight our command had so far. This was the Ebenezer Church Battle. I was not in this, but I was in far greater danger than they were at the time.
Here I got a horse, took my proper place in the company and felt more like a soldier. The next day we entered Selma, Alabama early in the morning. Long's brigade of McCook's corps had met a force of Forrest's men on the road to Selma. They had erected fairly strong barricades clear across the road and made a bold stand hoping yet to keep us out of Selma, but Long's men would not be stopped. They came with a rush, rode over them and their barricades, killing some and capturing a lot of them. Then they rode into the city and took possession. We followed them up and came in without any further trouble. That, I think, was the last of the redoubtate Forrest of Fort Pillow fame. At least, he never troubled us anymore.
Selma was an important city for the Rebs. They had large arsenals here for the manufacture and repair of arms of all kinds, and for manufacture and storing of all kinds of ammunition. They had here also a crude stockade, or bull pen, for our boys they caught. There were a number of our boys in it when Long came in, so now the captured Rebs changed places with our boys. Selma lays in a bend of the Alabama River and is here wide, deep and swift. We were there two days trying to lay a pontoon bridge across it. The Rebels, from above us, sent down flat boats loaded with sand, logs and rafts of all kinds and busted the bridge a number of times when nearly finished. Our brigade's Gen. Alexander nearly lost his life one time. He was in a boat trying to stop some logs or rafts when the things struck and upset his boat. If not for timely help he would have gone down sure. We all finally got across, the last had set fire to all public buildings used by the Rebs, also the arsenal and machine shops. So, turning our backs on the now blazing city, we rode or set out on a sharp
march for Montgomery, Ala.: the capitol of the state and first capitol of the Confederacy, where Jeff Davis was inaugurated in 1861, its first, last and only president. We reached it late that afternoon and, as it had surrendered to our first men that entered it without any opposition, the rest of us were rushed through its Main St. on the gallop. We saw but little of it, but I did see and take note of its Capitol Bldg., and fenced in square in the middle of its Main St. and near the building, and it did not impress me as being especially handsome. We camped that night in a grove 2 or 3 miles from the city. Passes were given to 5 or 6 men of each company to go to the city if they wanted to. I was not very anxious or curious to see it again and, being very tired, I lay down and went to sleep as soon as I got me a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. I slept good and sound. We resumed our march in good time in the morning. We were now on the road to Columbus, Ga., where we expected a warm reception. We were but very little molested by the Rebs that day. Now and then some guerrillas or bushwhackers would fire at the advance guard from some ambush, but as they did very little harm, the boys paid but little attention to them. There was no use in trying to follow them, as they might lead them into a trap as they did several times to the boys with serious cost the first few days of our march. We camped that night in the woods and right on the edge of a swamp. All night long we heard the alligators cry, the swamp seemed alive with them. Their cry sounded just like a child's in distress. It is a wonder they did not get some of us when we went there for water, but no one was hurt. I think it was this day that we passed through the lovely town of Tuskegee, Ala. We saw very few people on the streets. It seemed entirely deserted. Very few Negroes showed themselves, they had probably been run off to prevent their following us. It seemed to be a rich planter's town. I can't recall seeing a poorly built house or badly kept lawn or grounds, except for the Negro quarters out in back of the residences. If there were any poor white folks there, we did not see them. What few white folks we saw were well dressed men and woman who stared at us from their porches or the windows as we passed through their town. We camped that night in a valley at the foot of the hills, and spent a quiet night with a good rest. The next day about noon we passed through a very fine little town called Laureldale. We were still in Alabama, but nearing the state line of Georgia. Here we got the first
news of the outside world. All this time we had been cut off from all the rest of God's country, as we called the north. Not a word had reached us as to what the rest of the army and the outside world was doing. On our way through the pretty little town, several times we were told that Richmond had surrendered. I rode up to a man standing by the fence in his yard and asked him what news there was and how things were going in the armies. He put his finger on his nose and, grimacing, told me that was the way folks were feeling in Richmond, that our folks were in full possession of the city and that the war was about over. You should have heard the hurrahs of our boys when the news passed along the line. It meant home, rest and plenty to eat. The people we met now assumed a more friendly attitude towards us, hoped the reports were true and so did we. We camped again and resumed our march. I think it was this day that we passed through and over the biggest and most horrid and difficult swamp we had yet seen. It was 8 to 10 miles across, so dense and gloomy that we could rarely see the sun. Alligators of immense size we saw in large numbers sleeping on logs and snakes of all kinds and size and other kinds of reptiles we never saw before were all around us. It gave us the horrors. We passed over the rickety cordway bridge that our had taken our engineer corps a good many hours to build. The Rebs had destroyed the regular (and a good one they said it was) bridge in hopes of delaying our approach to Columbus until they could get in good shape to receive us. We were now getting near there. We were all glad when we finally got across that fearful swamp, for had our horses made a misstep and thrown us over, it would surely have been the last of us. It gives me the creeps even now to think of it. As I said, we were now near to Columbus, Ga. All at once, before we were aware of it, we saw the Chattahoochee River, Columbus on the south side, and its suburb Girard with its strong forts and works at our feet, almost laying in a valley below us. It was about 1:30 pm when we first saw it from the top of the bluff 4 or 5 hundred feet high. Although we knew we had to fight, and fight hard, for it (as we saw their forts and their troops with their bayonets glistening in the sun and their strength and great preparation), even so we were glad to see it as we had no doubt of the result. We all felt that we were now near the end of our long, weary march and struggle. As I said, Girard lay on this (our side) of the river some three or four hundred yards from the foot of the bluff
we were on. It was on a level plain, not a bush, tree or any possible shelter could we see. It looked like serious business for us to get across that space in the face of them strong works and heavy guns, and behind their breastworks a few yards in advance was their infantry. In what force, we did not know, but from our position overlooking the whole valley for miles up and down the river we could see everything plain and distinct: the marching of the troops into the forts and breastworks, the gunners loading their heavy guns, their officers, Generals & staff riding on full gallop along their lines giving their orders, and all their other preparations. We could see the people: men, woman and children in Columbus rushing to and fro, and even see them pointing their spy glasses towards us. It was a curious and wonderful sight to us, and grand beyond disruption was the view of river valley and city in its martial array. But just now we did not appreciate all this grandeur. Our thoughts were busy thinking of how we were ever going to get over those 3 or 4 hundred yards that separated us from our friends in grey alive. As soon as we came in view and they saw us on those hills, the bells were set ringing, whistles from factories shrieked their loudest and warning salutes were fired to summon the people to arms and the defense of their homes against the brutal invaders. It seemed that all pandemonium had broken loose. They also trained their guns on us, and shot and shell flew over us pretty lively and their sharpshooters tried their best to hit some of us. They did us no harm, as we laid low. Late in the afternoon our whole brigade was dismounted and the horses left in charge of every fourth man. They marched us to the foot of the bluff and there laid flat on our stomachs to protect ourselves from their fire, for they kept it up all the time. We suffered but few or little in killed or wounded, just how many fell, I never heard. I knew that in our company none were hurt. They could not get a range on us in the position we were in, but it was a tedious and tiresome wait for us, as we were in such a cramped position. But we had to stand it, for to stand or even sit up would be sure to be killed or at least wounded. So we lay still and waited for the signal from headquarters to advance. At last, to our great relief, night came on. It was very dark, as I well remember. We saw several rockets fly up in the air. That was the signal. The Rebs saw it also, and knew it was now or never for them. They at once opened every gun they had on us, and the rattle of their
muskets was steady and regular. With us it was now "Up and at them boys!", "Get in them works and don't stop until you are in, and then hold them!" Up and away on a full run we rushed, our carbines in full play. And they were pumped never before faster. In fifteen minutes we were inside, the forts and works were ours with all inside of them. I don't think many of their men escaped. They did not have the time, nor did they think we would come at them in such a rush. They expected to be able to hold on for some time and that we would besiege them and try and starve them out. This, they felt, we could not do with the river free, the city and open country to bring them reinforcements and supplies &c &c. Gen. Wilson knew this as well as they did, and it was no part of his plan to do this. That would have meant defeat and capture in the end sure, as we had no reinforcements or supplies to rely on anywhere within several hundred miles. We were now, and had been, cut off from all communication or help from our army ever since leaving the Tennessee River in March, in the enemies' country surrounded on all sides by them. So we just had to win, that was all there was to it. Every one of us knew this to be the case. Well, we were the victors. How many prisoners we took, I don't know. There were a lot of them, well up in the thousands. How heavy their loss in killed or wounded was, I never saw reported, but it was considerable. Still, ours was more. They were protected by strong works, we were in the open. The only thing that saved us, I may say, was the darkness, our nearness to them and our sudden and quick rush. They overshot us, their guns were not suppressed low enough. Their shell and shot, as well as their musket or infantry balls, flew screaming over our heads before they had time to correct their aim. But their rapid fire from the fort and the infantry in their entrenchments lit up the darkness and made the night look bright as day. It blinded us so that no doubt our aim was bad, but we shot straight ahead and just as fast as we could work our carbines. Our battery stationed on the hill top kept up a steady fire until they heard us charge, then they stopped, fearing they would fire into us. I don't think they hurt the Rebs much either. Early in the morning, the 4th Missouri rushed to and over the only bridge over the river connecting Columbus with Girard to save it from destruction. They were none too soon, as the Rebs from the other side were already there and in the act of setting fire to it. It had been saturated with coal oil and all spaces filled up with
Return To Top of Part 1
Go To Top of Part 3
Go To Index of Parts 1, 2 & 3
have any questions or comments, please e-mail me at
email@example.com. Thank you.